9th January, 390km (approx).
The plan today was to ride 390km south from Udon Thani to Surin, to put us within easy distance to get to the Thailand-Cambodia border crossing tomorrow. Karen was starting to look like a McDonalds McBacon McMuffin McBreakfast so for a change she went to the breakfast bar at our hotel and enjoyed their bacon, but I gave the Udon Thani McDonalds one last breakfast order and all my loose change.
We packed the bike under the watchful stare of hotel guests standing around the lobby of the Centara, and then got a round of ‘thumbs-ups’ from them as we rode away, initially in the wrong direction as the GPS hadn’t yet acquired enough satellites to figure out where we were.
Traffic was light as we departed Udon Thani, and out on the open road we tapped the bike a bit and cruised along around 110kmh – 120kmh for most of the day, enjoying the quickest pace we’ve had in ages, though frequently being baulked by slow cars and trucks. It was in these situations that the Thai riding practice of riding in the left hand motorcycle lane really paid off, as if the oncoming traffic was too dense to allow a safe pass on the right, we could legitimately pass on the inside using the motorcycle lane.
Aad had warned in a recent email that Highway 2 heading south from Udon Thani towards Bangkok and which formed a large part of the quickest route towards Surin was absolutely manic to ride on – Aad and Mike had seen a dead rider on the road just a couple of days ago and had read that there are about 80 fatalities/day in Thailand – making it the second-most dangerous place in the world to ride – so we avoided Highway 2 from the start and instead used the GPS to plot a motorcycle-friendly ‘curvy road’ route down to Surin, which probably added both time and distance to our ride, but also added fun and enjoyment, and subtracted some of the highway dangers that Aad had alerted us to.
Our country back-roads ride took us down narrow country roads in rural areas, passing through some sleepy villages scattered here and there. We stopped in one to refuel as I was a bit unsure about finding fuel further down the road, and the fuel pump attendants were amazed to see the big BMW, along with the off-duty policeman who came over to photo the bike, explaining as he did that he as only partially in uniform, as he showed off his casual shorts and things, underneath his uniform shirt.
Further down the road we stopped for a drink and a bag of crisps, not realising at this stage that this would end up constituting our lunch for the day. Just south of here we crossed a long bridge spanning a wide lake – stopping on the bridge to photograph the floating huts attached to the large fish-net contraptions they had.
We started to see signposts to a Dinosaur Museum, and whilst we didn’t go inside we did park the bike under a brontosaurus and took a few photos.
South of this place the road doubled in lanes and traffic, until we got bogged down in a town called Roi Et. GPS’s should have an option to ‘take town bypass roads if available’ as our GPS led us right through the centre of this town, still busy cleaning up the streets after an overnight celebration – Karen thought it might have been Chinese New Year perhaps. We did ride for a while with some young guys on their little bikes and we all had fun – we got a laugh out of them when we blipped the throttle whilst waiting for a red light to change green as one of the young guns almost launched himself off, much to the amusement of his mates.
South of Roi Et the road became more rural again so we upped the speed and settled back into our 110kmh cruise mode. The GPS led us straight to PPS Home – cheap at $20, clean, easy parking with the bike right outside our ground floor room, and no food within walking distance – so after getting some cold Chang beers (no time constraints on buying alcohol in Surin I note) we ordered pizza and had that delivered, and watched the last of the Harry Potter movies.
Tomorrow we enter Cambodia and ride to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and catch up with Aad and Mike. It’ll be great to see the guys and hear about their time at YSS in Bangkok. Bring it on !!!